Legislative Update

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
May 20, 2015 Legislative Update

North Carolina House of Representatives Unveils Budget Blueprint

Late last week, the House Appropriations subcommittees began rolling out their budget plans, the first step in the budget process, following the governor’s $21.5 billion budget proposal. Since the governor’s budget plan, the General Assembly has received updated revenue projections showing a $400 million surplus and numbers that will trigger additional corporate tax reductions. The House budget increases general state funding by $1.3 billion, a 6.3 percent increase, compared to a 2 percent increase in the governor’s proposed budget. The budget plan includes a projected revenue increase of about 6 percent and includes a 2 percent raise for most state employees.

The full House budget proposal was unveiled yesterday. The House Finance Committee debated key tax and economic development provisions, approving the measure with a vote of 19-16. The budget now moves to the House Appropriations Committee, where members will debate and amend the package before sending it to the full House for final votes later this week.

Key provisions included within the House budget draft include:

  • Taxes and Economic Development

    Medical Expenses Tax Deduction

    Restores the tax deduction for all qualifying medical expenses.

    Solar Energy Tax Credit
    Extends tax credits for solar energy projects for two year.

    Renewable Energy Tax Credit
    Extends tax credits for renewable energy project for four years.

    Aircraft Service Contracts
    Establishes a sales tax break on aircraft service contracts beginning in 2017.

    Historical Preservation
    Restores a scaled-back version of the historic preservation tax credit.

    Research and Development Tax Credit
    Extends the research and development tax credit for four years.

Film Incentives
Appropriates $120 million over the next biennium for film industry grants.

Venture Capital
Establishes a new North Carolina Venture Multiplier Fund, providing $40 million for innovations and inventions.

Review a summary of the finance package.

  • Agriculture, Natural and Economic Resources

The agriculture and natural and economic resources budget proposal includes additional funding for clean water grants and water infrastructure, as well as money for the dredging of Oregon Inlet. The Parks and Recreation Trust Fund would see a substantial increase with a $12.5 million increase in the first year and $1.5 million in subsequent years. This would bring the overall funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund up to $42.5 million. Additionally, more funding would be committed to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would take a 23 percent cut to money it receives from the general fund, although its overall budget would increase slightly.

  • Capital

The proposed House capital improvements budget includes a provision that would pay for five construction projects at major North Carolina universities with a special type of bond package called “two-thirds bonds,” should voters fail to approve the larger bond proposal in 2016. Two-thirds bonds do not require voter approval and are frequently used by cities and counties to fund building projects. The proposed capital budget also includes $3 million to help repair the hull of Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, $5 million for water resource projects, including dredging projects, and $4 million to replace the third floor roof of the North Carolina State Legislative Building in Raleigh.

  • Education

K-12

The initial House education budget proposal would increase K-12 school spending by $269 million, adding new funds for charter schools and teacher bonuses. A large portion of the increase is $100.2 million to address enrollment growth, with North Carolina public schools expected to add 17,000 more students over the course of the next year. The budget would increase starting pay for teachers to $35,000.

Higher Education

The House education budget proposal would decrease the UNC system budget by $26 million, versus the $50 million decrease included in the governor’s budget. In addition, universities would implement a teaching workload equal to the national average in their Carnegie classification, and an additional $1.5 million would be appropriated for the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program and $5 million for “game changing research.” Community colleges would increase credit hours from $72 per credit hour to $76 per credit hour, costing the average full-time student an additional $128 a year.

  • General Government
    The North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiative (NC GEAR), one of the signature initiatives of Governor McCrory, is not fully funded. Some of the NC GEAR recommendations, however, did make it into the general government budget proposal. Key among them was establishing a new, cabinet-level Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, something Governor McCrory pushed for in his State of the State speech in February. The entire Division of Veterans Affairs would be transferred to the new department, which is supposed to improve services for the more than 110,000 active duty members and 770,000 veterans.
  • Health and Human Services
    The health and human services budget proposal includes an additional $287 million to pay for increases in Medicaid enrollment and use of medical services, in addition to setting up a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid. Additionally, the budget includes a provision for establishing an Office of Program Evaluation Reporting and Accountability within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The DHHS secretary would hire the program director, but he could only be fired by the governor. As written, the budget features more than $4.9 million in additional funds for mental health, bringing the total mental health budget to $43 million. The budget also features a $970,000 block grant allocation to pay for services offered to the elderly.
  • Information Technology
    The information technology budget proposal includes a $1.5 million allocation to aid in building FirstNet, a nationwide wireless network dedicated to public safety. Additionally, the budget allocates more than $3 million for IT modernization throughout the state’s Office of Information Technology Services. Other items of interest include $500,000 for an economic development modeling plan at UNC Charlotte, $4.5 million to increase the state IT security and $8 million to support the Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC).
  • Justice and Public Safety
    The House's proposed spending plan includes an overall increase in funding for the courts, including $6.3 million added to the operating budget and $11.9 million for technology that could help bring an antiquated court-filing system into the digital age. The budget also allocates $3.3 million toward the establishment of the first four behavioral health units planned at eight high-security prisons throughout North Carolina. Additionally, $1.16 million would be provided for 35 new workers starting Jan. 1 at the Central Prison health care facility, which is adding 72 new beds.
  • Transportation
    The transportation budget proposal includes a provision to decrease the gas tax from the current amount of 36 cents per gallon to 33 cents in January 2016. Notably, the Division of Motor Vehicles would collect an additional $289 million per year under a provision that calls for a 50 percent increase for driver's licenses, vehicle titles and other fees. The annual car registration renewal fee, not including county property taxes, would rise from $28 to $42, with the increase largely going to pay for road construction.
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Monday, May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 Legislative Update

North Carolina General Assembly Receives New Revenue Numbers-$400 Million Surplus

Last week, a joint report published by the Office of State Budget and Management and the Legislature’s non-partisan Fiscal Research Division predicted that North Carolina will collect $400 million more in revenue this year than the state expected. The state’s last prediction, made in mid-February, forecast a budget shortfall of approximately $270 million. A joint report finds that the surplus is “predominantly due to higher income tax payments and lower refunds from the 2014 tax year.” Wages, sales tax receipts and withholdings from paychecks were also relatively flat or down, according to the report. Review the full report.  

North Carolina House of Representatives Turns Attention to Budget Drafting

House Speaker Tim Moore announced last week that the North Carolina House budget proposal is anticipated to be completed the week of May 18, with full House floor votes on May 20 and May 21, before sending it to the Senate. Legislative leaders have already indicated their support to increase starting teacher pay to $35,000, which is a $41.8 million budget item. In addition, Governor McCrory has supported $82 million in targeted state government pay raises and $155 million in economic incentives for sectors such as film, aviation and renewable energy, among others.

Per the recent revenue report, the budget numbers are on track to once again trigger a decrease in corporate income tax rates. The tax reform legislation that passed in 2013 reduced the corporate income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 6 percent in 2014 and 5 percent in 2015. If the state fiscal account reached $20.2 billion in general tax revenue by the end of this fiscal year ( June 30), a trigger would be implemented to reduce the corporate tax rate to 4 percent effective January 1, 2016.

The timing of the House budget process is expected to be:

  • May 14: Appropriations subcommittees review their sections of the budget
  • May 19: Full budget proposal on House floor
  • May 21: Final House vote on budget
  • May 25: Senate begins budget deliberations
  • June 30: Deadline to pass a new budget, although sometimes extended by legislators

North Carolina Pays Off $2.8 Billion Unemployment Debt Early

Governor McCrory and legislative leaders announced last week that North Carolina has paid off a $2.8 billion unemployment insurance debt it owed to the federal government, three years ahead of schedule. The accelerated repayment was accomplished in just two years as the result of an overhaul of the state’s unemployment insurance program that reduced the size of payments as well as the number of weeks recipients could collect unemployment benefits.

The Charlotte Chamber was a strong advocate for the legislation that reformed the unemployment insurance system, which was pivotal in addressing the state’s debt.

North Carolina House Passes Regulatory Reform with Renewable Energy Standard Freeze

Last week, the House officially approved to freeze North Carolina’s renewable energy standard and remove price supports for future solar farms. The changes were part of House Bill 760 - Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, a comprehensive package that addresses protective buffers for rivers and curtails the investigatory powers of wildlife officers, among other things. The measure had its first vote on the night before crossover, when an amendment to the bill froze the state's renewable energy portfolio standard and repealed the 80 percent tax exemption for solar farms.

After further amending the property tax break was restored, but utilities will no longer have to buy renewable energy unless they need it. Beginning in 2017, utilities will no longer have to offer contracts to solar farms greater than 100 kilowatts. The current requirement for a standard qualifying contract is 5 megawatts, the size of most small solar farms in North Carolina.

House Bill 760 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

North Carolina House Begins Debate on Comprehensive Transportation Reform

Last week, the House held its first hearing on the comprehensive transportation reform measure, House Bill 927 - Reestablish NC as the “Good Roads State. During the debate, the bill sponsor, Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), indicated that the proposed vehicle insurance tax would be removed from the proposal. This proposed tax  would have reportedly added $106 to the average auto policy. Rep. Torbett stated that while the bill remains “under construction,” the insurance section “is not going to be in there.”

One of the provisions included within House Bill 927 is a $1.5 billion bond for transportation infrastructure supported by Governor McCrory. House Speaker Tim Moore stated late last week that the bond proposal is “problematic.”  The speaker indicated a preference to include the bond referendum during the 2016 presidential primary, versus the governor’s proposal of a special election in November 2015.

North Carolina Senate Approves Keeping 15-Point Scale for School Grades

The Senate gave unanimous approval last week to a two-year extension of a more forgiving 15-point scale used to assign public school grades. House Bill 358 - School Performance Grade Scale will most likely prevent hundreds of schools from dropping below the C grades that they received based on last year’s test results, as many would have fallen to Ds or Fs this year if North Carolina had continued with a plan to begin using a 10-point grading scale.

On the way to the final vote, Senate leaders used a parliamentary maneuver to stop a proposal that would give more weight in the grading formula according to student growth. For elementary and middle schools, scores on standardized tests count for 80 percent of their grade, while growth counts for 20 percent. The state released the first grades in February, with the results indicating a high correlation between the wealth of students’ families and the grades that their schools received.

 

 

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015
May 4, 2015 Legislative Update

N.C. General Assembly’s ‘Crossover’ Deadline Passes With Wide Array of Activity

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly worked long hours to pass more than 200 bills last week in advance of their self-imposed “crossover” deadline of Thursday, April 30 Crossover is the date by which a bill that is unrelated to taxes, fees or spending must be passed by one chamber in order for it to remain eligible for consideration by the other. Those bills that did not meet crossover will likely not be heard through the rest of the 2015-16 legislative session. Lawmakers have filed 1,655 bills so far this session, with more than 500 bills already passing the House, Senate or both.

The House adjourned at 2:26 a.m. on Thursday, April 30, passing more than 70 bills ranging from reinstating capital punishment to allowing Sunday hunting.

The Senate concluded its crossover business on Thursday morning, passing bills that ranged from prohibiting the political activities of teachers to mandating insurance coverage for autism.

The House and Senate still have a wide array of controversial measures to consider over the next couple of months, including transportation reform, various firearm reforms, proposed changes regarding tax policy and economic incentives, and Medicaid reforms.

House Turns Focus to State Budget Drafting

The House will now immediately turn its attention to the state budget- writing process, which they will draft and pass before sending to the Senate, most likely by the end of May. Legislators expect that the latest revenue forecast will be unveiled this week, providing detail on revenues based on April tax returns. The new revenue forecast will inform the General Assembly of available spending as they craft the state budget for the 2015-16 fiscal years, which begins July 1.

House Gives Preliminary Approval to Omnibus Regulatory Reform Bill

The House has tentatively approved House Bill 760 - Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, a wide-ranging reform measure aimed at protecting developers and businesses. Major provisions include:

  • Local Governments and Riparian Buffers
    Prohibits local governments from enforcing ordinances that require buffers of wider than 50 feet after June 1, 2016, unless the Environmental Management Commission grants a request based on scientific evidence.
  • Hog Farms
    Permits certain abandoned or unused hog farms to reopen without requirements of treatment of hog waste.
  • Occupational Licensing Boards
    Prohibits boards from employing a person licensed by the board to serve as an inspector or investigator, if the person is practicing in that profession.
  • Renewable Energy Portfolio
    Freezes the state’s renewable energy portfolio at its current level, upon further study.

  • Solar Energy
    Repeals the 8 percent property tax abatement for solar energy farms.
  • Grants and Contracts Task Force
    Creates a new task force to address issues related to the administration of state grants and contracts to private nonprofits.

The House is scheduled to hold the final vote on HB 760 Tuesday, May 5, where upon passage it will go to the Senate for consideration.

House Passes Environmental Reform Package Amid Crossover Marathon Session

The House, before adjourning its crossover session, passed an environmental measure, House Bill 795 - State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Reform, which narrows the application of SEPA. Before passage, the measure was amended to scale back the impact to projects triggering environmental review for those costing the state more than $10 million, versus the original $20 million, and for those projects impacting at least 5 acres of public land, rather than 20 acres. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Review a summary of the proposal.

Senate Passes Package Enforcing Employee Classifications

The Senate passed Senate Bill 694 - Employee Fair Classification, which clarifies definitions of employees versus independent contractors. Under the measure, the state will create a special agency within the state budget office to review and investigate claims of workers and contractors. Employers falsifying records of independent contractors would face fines, loss of government contracts and loss of licenses. The proposal now moves to the House for debate.

Update – House Passes Repeal of Business License Fees

Last week, the full House passed a proposal to repeal the authority of municipalities to charge a fee for the regulation and licensing of businesses, etc. House Bill 739 - Repeal Business License Fees would prevent cities from charging $20 or $25 per business to operate the registration programs. The proposal now goes to the Senate for further debate.

House to Begin Debate on Comprehensive Transportation Funding Reform

The House Transportation Committee will hold its first hearing on the comprehensive transportation reform package, House Bill 927 - Reestablish NC as the “Good Roads State,” this week (May 5). The measure redefines how the state will collect and spend transportation revenue. The new spending plan will outline new infrastructure spending, an increase of approximately $1 billion per year, in specific sums toward contract resurfacing, state port modernization, city streets, bridge repairs and other transportation needs.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Torbett (R-Gastonia), includes provisions which:

  • Governor’s Infrastructure Bond: Fund infrastructure projects.
  • Gas Tax: Decrease the state gas tax from 36 cents to 30 cents, implemented on July 1 through January 2017. In 2017, the gas tax would be set by a new formula based on state population growth and national energy inflation rates.
  • Highway Fund Revenues: Over four years, phase out the transfer of $255 million in gas tax collections and other highway fund revenue to the general fund.
  • Highway Use Tax: Increase the tax on car sales from 3 percent to 4 percent (January 2016).
  • Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Increase fees for permits, licenses, titles and registrations.
  • Auto Insurance: Implement a new 6.5 percent tax collected on automobile insurance premiums.
  • Trucks: Increase the fees for trucks and the fees charged by weight for property-hauling vehicles.
  • Car Rentals: Increase the tax on car rentals from 8 percent to 9 percent on short-term rentals, and from 3 percent to 4 percent on long-term rentals.

The Charlotte Chamber has and will continue to prioritize comprehensive transportation reform measures. At the onset, our chamber joined the statewide coalition led by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to continued dialogue with our delegation to advance this pivotal issue.

Department of Revenue Secretary to Vacate Position

North Carolina’s Department of Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray is slated to vacate his position as he was nominated by Governor McCrory for a seat on the Utilities Commission. Secretary Gray is expected to stay within the Department of Revenue until the General Assembly approves the nomination.

 

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Monday, April 27, 2015
April 27, 2015 Legislative Update

Flurry of Activity as General Assembly Faces “Crossover” Deadline this Week

Legislators advanced a wide array of bills last week as they approach the “crossover” deadline this week, April 30th. “Crossover” is a self-imposed rule of the General Assembly procedures that dictates a piece of legislation that does not impact taxes or fiscal spending, must pass the legislative body of origin to remain eligible for the two-year legislative session. The deadline was created to help limit the length of legislative sessions, since our state does not have a session deadline. Bills that do not pass one chamber by April 30th are technically dead for the 2015-2016 General Assembly sessions.

With the deadline approaching this week, long days of committees and votes are expected, which will see a flood of proposals passing through the House and Senate.

House Leaders Say Religious Freedom Proposal “Dead”

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) announced late last week that the House will not take up the controversial “religious freedom” legislation, effectively killing it for the rest of this session. Speaker Moore said that House Bill 348, the NC Religious Freedom Act, “This bill in its current format, at the current time, is not the proper path to go for the citizens of North Carolina,” Moore said. HB 348 has an identical version in the Senate, SB 550, that hasn’t had a hearing yet.  Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan sent the following statement to members of the Mecklenburg Legislative Delegation. 

Members of the Mecklenburg Legislative Delegation,

I know that Natalie English has communicated with some of you that our Executive Committee last week voted to take a position on the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  We want to make sure each of you has the benefit of having that information as you consider taking it up during this Crossover period.

We urge you to focus on the issues we know will keep North Carolina competitive for our existing businesses and those who might have an interest in relocating to North Carolina.  Those issues are incentives, regulatory and tax policies.  Following the firestorm of negative attention in Indiana following adoption of a similar proposal, we question whether debate and adoption of the current proposal, or even simply restating federal law, might create an image that will negatively affect our competitiveness.

Senate Finance Committee Begins Debate on Economic Development Plans

Senators last week debated economic development policies and said they plan to combine elements of competing House and Senate economic development plans into one proposal. The Senate Finance Committee meeting was the body’s first public discussion of House Bill 117, NC Competes Act, an economic development bill supported by Governor Pat McCrory and approved by the House in early March. The House package doubles the money allotted to the Job Development Investment Grant fund from $22.5 million for the current two-year period to over $45 million, allowing the McCrory Administration to promise millions to employers before the end of the year. For their part, Senate Republicans have filed a separate bill that raises the cap while changing the program to limit incentives in urban counties. They also filed legislation that would lower corporate income tax rates and change how the taxes are calculated through a method that benefits large manufacturers. Senators are expected to move forward on the proposals this week.

CALL to ACTION:  Please contact members of the NC Senate Finance Committee to urge them to pass legislation that will get North Carolina back into the economic development game.  Without the JDIG or a substitute for it, projects are dropping North Carolina locations from consideration.

New House Proposal to Permit Cities/Towns to Enact a New Sales Tax

A plan put forward by House leaders last week would allow cities and towns to enact their own quarter-cent sales tax. House Bill 903, the County Tax Flexibility/Municipal Revenue Options, was introduced by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) as part of an alternative effort to a Senate plan that would redistribute sales tax revenue based on population. If the bill were to pass, city councils could add a quarter-cent to the tax rate that is applied to sales and services within the city limits. In areas where both cities and counties implement the option, the sales tax could raise by 0.5 cents on sales.

House Advances Repeal of Business License Fees

A House committee passed last week a proposal to repeal the authority of municipalities to charge a fee for the regulation and licensing of businesses, etc. House Bill 739-Repeal Business License Fees, would prevent cities from charging $20 or $25 per business to operate the registration programs. The proposal now goes to the House Finance Committee for further debate.

House Passes New E-Verify Law

A bill that cleared the House last week would compel thousands of additional North Carolina businesses to start using E-Verify, a federal system to check their employees’ immigration status. House Bill 318, Protect North Carolina Workers Act, would lower the threshold for using the E-Verify system from 25 employees to five. HB 318’s sponsor, Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow) said at a press conference last week that the measure would add about 100,500 employers statewide to the immigration-check system. “People in the United States illegally cost North Carolina $1.7 billion a year,” Cleveland said. “It's our responsibility to the citizens of our state to make sure that they are not subsidizing illegals.” The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

House Rejects Changes Renewable Energy Mandate

The House Public Utilities Committee voted down House Bill 681-NC Energy Ratepayers Protection Act last week with a vote of 14-16. The bill would have frozen at 6 percent the amount of retail sales that utilities must create using efficiency efforts, such as solar, etc. Per a law passed in 2007, electric cooperatives and city-owned power companies are require to increase their energy efficiency efforts to 10 percent later this decade and larger utilities up to 12.5 percent.  Five committee Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure, including Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, who said North Carolina has been at the forefront of an "all of the above" energy strategy and the 2007 law has encouraged private investment.

House & Senate Pass New Reform Measures to Protect Employers

The House passes two bills last week aimed at providing additional protection for employers:   protecting employer assets and property; and strengthening patents.

Property Protection/Workplace Recordings
House Bill 405- Property Protection Act passed the full House with a 100-8 vote. The measure, aimed at protecting property owners (employers) by enacting civil penalties for people who take or record information that “substantially interferes” with the rights of the property owner. The measure would prevent anyone from placing an unattended camera or other surveillance device in a business. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Patent Rights & Protections
Senate Bill 482-LLC Act Clarifications passed the full Senate with a vote of 48-0. The proposal clarifies rights between employer and employee over inventions developed by employers, preventing compensation disputes from harming an employer’s ownership of an employees’ invention, discovery or development. The bill, barring any legal agreement stating otherwise, clarifies employers own the patents. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

House Votes Down Gubernatorial ‘Team Ticket’ Proposal

The House rejected a proposal last week to put an initiative on the ballot that would have amended the North Carolina Constitution to allow candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a ticket. House Bill 344, Gubernatorial Team Ticket, would have put a referendum on the ballot statewide in 2018 to require voters to select a "team" as governor and lieutenant governor, starting in the November 2020 general election. The measure would mirror the way presidents and vice presidents of the United States are currently elected. The final vote on HB 344 was 60-58, falling short of the two-thirds majority required under law to advance a proposal amending the constitution.           

Mecklenburg Delegation Holds Forum to Hear from Constituents

Mecklenburg lawmakers hosted a town hall forum last Friday to hear from constituents regarding activity in the General Assembly. The hearing was organized by the co-chairs of the Mecklenburg Delegation, Rep.Carney (D-Mecklenburg) and Senator Tarte (R-Mecklenurg) Individuals and organizations spoke to legislators on those policy issues of concern. Review the full hearing.

 

 

 

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Monday, April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015 Legislative Update

House Unveils Comprehensive Transportation Funding Reform

The House filed a long-term transportation reform proposal, House Bill 927 - Reestablish NC as the “Good Roads State,” which redefines how the state will collect and spend transportation revenue. The new spending plan will outline new infrastructure spending, an increase of approximately $1 billion per year, in specific sums towards contract resurfacing, state port modernization, city streets, bridge repairs and other transportation needs.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Torbett (R-Gastonia), includes provisions which:

  • Gas Tax: Decrease the state gas tax from 36 cents to 30 cents, implemented on July 1 through January 2017. In 2017, the gas tax would be set by a new formula based on state population growth and national energy inflation rates.
  • Highway Fund Revenues: Over four years, phase out the transfer of $255 million in gas tax collections and other highway fund revenue to the general fund.
  • Highway Use Tax: Increase the tax on car sales from 3 percent to 4 percent (January 2016).
  • Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Increase fees for permits, licenses, titles and registrations.
  • Auto Insurance: Implement a new 6.5 percent tax collected on automobile insurance premiums.
  • Trucks: Increase the fees for trucks and the fees charged by weight for property-hauling vehicles.
  • Car Rentals: Increase the tax on car rentals from 8 percent to 9 percent on short-term rentals, and from 3 percent to 4 percent on long-term rentals.

The Charlotte Chamber has and will continue to prioritize comprehensive transportation reform measures. At the onset, our chamber joined the statewide coalition led by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to continued dialogue with our delegation to advance this pivotal issue. Please refer to the summary in the April 20, 2015, public policy update for a review of our Transportation Infrastructure Summit held on April 17, 2015.

House Files Proposal to Implement Governor’s Bond Proposals

House budget leaders filed a bill last week that would, among other things, implement the governor’s proposed bonds for highways and infrastructure. House Bill 940-2015 - Governor’s Budget, authorizes a voter referendum for $3 billion in bonds to pay for road projects and government and campus building construction. The measure requests up to $1.5 billion in highway bonds and $1.5 billion in infrastructure bonds. Each bond would be subject to a statewide vote in October or November during municipal elections. Among the highlighted projects included within the proposed bonds are:

  • $200 million for port infrastructure improvements.
  • $200 million in community college system projects statewide.
  • $504 million for UNC System projects, including $60 million for a science building at UNC Charlotte, $114 million for a science facility at Western Carolina University, $99 million for a new engineering facility at North Carolina A&T State University, and $77 million for an engineering building at NC State University.
  • $15 million for infrastructure within the state court system.
  • $409 million toward construction of five sections of the Winston-Salem beltway.

The proposed bonds will need to pass both the North Carolina House and Senate before the referendum can be placed on voter ballots.

Unanimous House Votes to Repeal Map Act

The North Carolina House voted unanimously Thursday to repeal the state Map Act, which enables the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) to reduce its right-of-way expenditures by blocking landowners from developing property it anticipates purchasing for future highway projects. The DOT uses the Map Act to draw corridor maps, which can sometimes handcuff property owners for decades, while neighbors are free to develop their land as they see fit and increase its profitability.

House Bill 183 - Repeal the Map Act now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

Bi-Partisan Group Files Economic Development Bill
Just in time for the North Carolina House’s bill filing deadline, a bi-partisan group of legislators filed a new economic development bill, House Bill 920 - Omnibus Economic Development Improvements, on Thursday. Last month, the House approved an economic development package, House Bill 117 - NC Competes Act, which is now parked in the Senate. HB 920 includes many of the same provisions that are in HB 117, but adds a number of new provisions, including: the historic preservation tax credit program, an expansion of the film grant program, and tax credits for cigarette exports, state port fees, motorsports, and research and development.

It is unclear whether HB 920 will be better received by the Senate, than HB 117. The Senate has also proposed its own economic development package, Senate Bill 526 - The Job Creation and Tax Relief Act of 2015. SB 526, which has not yet received a committee hearing, concentrates on cutting taxes and ensuring that more JDIG grants go to rural counties.

Bill Would Put All Uber, Lyft Regulation With the State

Cities have struggled for more than a year with how they should regulate cars and drivers of ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft. New legislation proposed last week would take the issue entirely out of the cities’ hands and put all regulation with the state. Senate Bill 541 - Regulate Transportation Network Companies sponsored by Senator Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), and its companion bill, House Bill 680, sponsored by Reps. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), would regulate transportation network companies through the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. In the past, the General Assembly has passed legislation that prohibited North Carolina’s municipalities from regulating “digital dispatch” companies, but SB 541/HB 680 would prohibit municipalities from regulating companies, cars or drivers.

Among the legislation’s many provisions is a stipulation requiring all drivers to have their vehicles inspected annually. In addition, all companies would be required to perform criminal background checks. If any driver had a moving violation within a three year period, if they appeared in a national sex offender database or if they didn’t have a driver’s license, they would be denied a permit. SB 541 is expected to be taken up in the coming weeks.

House OKs Partisan Judicial Elections

In a 65-48 vote on Thursday, the state House gave preliminary approval to a plan to end nonpartisan elections for seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals. House Bill 8 - Restore Partisan Statewide Judicial Elections, sponsored by Rep. Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), purports that the aim of the legislation is to ensure transparency and give voters more information about candidates. House Democrats strongly disagreed. "Going to partisan elections is not the solution; we’re going to elect more judicial activists, both from the left and from the right,” said Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake).

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